Book Club in a Basket, Revisited…

Chirped by Tina and Cass

Book-Club-in-Basket-PIN-v2I know what you’re thinking – they haven’t even been blogging for a year and they’re already recycling their posts?? Fair point. But most worthwhile causes need support more than once a year, and this one’s raising money for pediatric brain cancer research through the Christopher Court Foundation. We know the founders, whose own son was taken by a brain tumor, and who make sure every penny goes directly to the research. Our book club’s previous basket (featuring My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry) amassed a lot of raffle tickets at the last fundraising event. (How many? We don’t know, and we would like that data! If it was less than 150 dollar’s worth, maybe we should have just donated the money instead!) Besides, as book club members ourselves, who get a lot of enjoyment out of that camaraderie and mental stimulation, how could we not want to share the tools of the trade with others not as blessed as we are whenever we have the chance? So here it is: our second Book Club in a Basket, this time for Tracy Chevalier’s At the Edge of the Orchard!


Basket Raffle for the Christopher Court Foundation Kick-a-thon, Fall 2018.

As you may recall, Cass and I are in a book club together, and I am also in another book club, and have been since long before we met. Both meet once a month, and whenever I can finagle it, I suggest or support a book I’ve already read and enjoyed with the other club! I usually try to re-read it, just as a refresher, and often get even more out of it the second time around – plus I can share things that might have come up the first time with my second club. And, if I don’t have time to read two books that month, I figure it’ll come back to me once the discussion starts… (-;

If you’ve thought about joining a book group, but were worried it would feel too much like doing homework for a high school English class, fear not! It’s typically more of a social club that happens to have a designated topic for the evening’s conversation that most of the members have reason to have an opinion about. And if you think you just don’t have time to read any more? It’s amazing what a deadline will do to help you find free time where there wasn’t any before! I loved to read as a kid, and had just sort of gotten out of the habit as an adult until my first book club came along. Now I read so much more, with more variety in what I read, and I’m guaranteed to have people to talk with about it when I get done – without having to spoil the ending for anyone! (Ok, ok, sometimes a few people show up to a meeting without having finished the book – it happens to all of us – but it’s their choice to get spoiled or to put their hands over their ears and yell “Nah nah nah nah nah!” when the discussion goes past their bookmark!)

group-shotHere’s an added incentive to join or start a club. I recently read a short piece by Malia Wollan in the New York Times Magazine called How to Start a Book Group, and I really appreciated a study she referenced by ethnographer David Peplow about why people join book clubs. While many people said they wanted to talk about books, Peplow’s conclusion, based on evaluating transcripts of actual meetings, was that “reading and talking about fiction gives people a way of processing things that happened in their lives in a relatively safe space.” Translation: it’s like group therapy – usually with wine and goodies! I find this to be very true. Often the book discussion leads to conversations that even folks who didn’t read the book can contribute to, based on their own personal experiences with the subject (or tangent) under debate. You can connect more personally to a book if it makes you question what you did, or would have done, under similar circumstances in your own life.

Are you convinced? Ready to start your own club? Here are the tips, tricks and treats we put together for our latest raffle basket… (Some of this will look very familiar if you read our post in March! c(-;)


Book Club in a Basket

A Starter Kit for Beginners

(or a Little Spice for Existing Clubs!)

So you want to start a book club? It doesn’t take much! Just a good book, a few friends who like to read, and your calendars. Next pick a venue, add some refreshments (or even some book-related props?), and you’ve got the makings of a fun gathering that will open up new horizons not only in what you read, but also what you get out of reading.  So round up some friends! This basket will jump-start your first meeting!

At the Edge of the Orchard, by Tracy Chevalier, is a great fall book club choice! We hosted an apple-themed recipe contest for this one, with participants submitting recipes to match their entries and voting anonymously for their favorites. We had prizes of mulling spices and apple butter for the most popular sweet and savory dishes. We originally considered going apple picking as a related activity, but by the date we met, the local orchards were picked clean. Try one of our recipes or collect your own. Pick up some fresh cider as a non-alcoholic (but spike-able!) hot beverage choice, or make Sour Apple Martinis with the ingredients supplied!

Basket Contents:

At the Edge of the Orchard (3 copies) Set in the mid 1800s, this novel introduces you to the Goodenoughs, who head West from Connecticut with some cuttings from the family orchards to stake their own claim. They land on the edge of a swamp in Ohio where their wagon gets stuck. The book chronicles the brutal realities of frontier life, fascinating descriptions of cultivating an apple orchard, and the vicious battles between husband and wife over the management of the household and farmstead – fueled by the hardships and loneliness of the life they have carved. The Goodenough’s youngest son flees their dysfunctional family to find his own way in Gold Rush California. There he finds some peace in the groves of giant redwoods and sequoias, helping to export seeds and saplings to English collectors. Eventually ghosts from his past catch up with him and force him to make a decision about what kind of life he wants to make for himself.

Book-Related Goodies:Basket-Contents

  • Apples at Book Club Recipes (3 Sets)
  • Applejack Brandy
  • Cinnamon Sticks
  • Sour Apple Schnapps
  • Vodka
  • Sprite
  • Maraschino Cherries
  • Decorative Cloth Napkins (4)
  • Apple Chips & Apple Cinnamon Pretzels
  • Apple-themed Cocktail Napkins
  • Apple Slicer
  • Pie Dish & Server
  • Bourbon Apple Scented Candle
  • Book Club Primer &  Discussion Questions

Some of these could be party favors, raffle or recipe contest prizes, or just ambiance!
Others make tasty refreshments while also connecting to the book. (-:

Some notes on getting started…

While the ideal size of a book club is probably six to nine people, three is certainly a good starting point to build from.(Ten to twelve ensures you always have a quorum – schedules rarely align perfectly!) Award your extra copies to the first two people to say they’ll come!

How you set up your club is really up to the friends you have gathered. As a group, you need to decide how often you want to meet, what kinds of books you want to read, and what duties will fall to the host vs. the attendees. I’ve been in three different clubs, all with very different approaches to these questions. Mostly we’ve read recently released and well-reviewed or recommended novels, memoirs, or historical fictions, with an occasional older classic sprinkled in. Often there are questions to spark conversation right at the back of the book, but sometimes we go online for ideas or just wing it, depending on how naturally “discussable” it is. My clubs have all had a strong social component that sometimes has to be reined in so that we have time to actually discuss the book, too! It usually falls to the host to direct (and redirect) the conversation when it wanders off-topic. Other clubs choose to minimize the socializing and have more structured discussions. As for scheduling your get-togethers, your club must decide what works best for the group. Here are a few examples of how that might look:

Bookmarks-webRotating Hosts: My first club met every January to propose and vote on nine books for the year, then took turns hosting each month on a date set by the host after the preceding meeting. Spoiler alert: inevitably a couple of hosts would change their book because some new hot release beckoned, or because the book they’d originally chosen/been assigned turned out to be a dud. We didn’t meet in September or December because we all tended to be overscheduled when school started or around the holidays. Each member only had to host about once a year. Every other month they just had to read the book and show up – easy peasy!

Indian-RestaurantRestaurant Retreat: My second book club was a smaller group (six people) that met at a local BYOB restaurant once a month where we ordered apps and desserts to share and members took turns as “host”: picking the date, choosing the book, bringing the wine and picking up the tab. Hosting at your home was also an option, but this way no one had to clean up or cook. Because of its small size, sometimes we didn’t meet at all in the summer because it was too hard to get a quorum with members’ varying vacation schedules.

Half-Broke-HorsesOne-Host Wonder: My third club typically met at the home of the founding member on the last Sunday of each month. This was a fun club that typically paired proposed books with related activities, outings, and/or menus. The host set the food and drink theme and each member brought refreshments accordingly. Since many of the members were teachers, this club chose TWO books per month in the summer, when there was more time to read.

Every book club is a little different. Have fun building yours, and Happy Reading!

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